The autumn and winter holidays, extending from late October through January, are a time of giving, crafting feasts from the gifts of the land and sea, and sharing gifts and experiences that have meaning or explore human capacity (for instance, ice skating which-- for some-- stretches that capacity). It is also marked by a wild uptick in garbage and food waste. But alas, you need not feel guilty but merely shift your thinking. Some of the ideas below are also good for business as they reduce waste, illustrate the ways your company gives back to the community and lightens the load on the planet and all its critters and planetary citizens.
The Tree: Many of you may not want silver or blue holiday trees but if you take care of an artificial tree, it will last many years as opposed to a live tree. If you want a brainiac life cycle assessment which compares artificial to natural trees to impress people over holiday beverage fiestas, look here. If not, please compost your tree (check your local government for where and how). If you venture to Swanson's nursery in Seattle next winter holiday, you can buy one of their Evergreen trees which you can return part of the Seattle Green Partnership's restoration program. They all entice with Reindeer and Camels. As you decorate, note that great strides have been made in LED color and bulb sizing and they are found virtually everywhere, and can save you considerable money in energy costs.
Experiences (what else for tourism?): There is nothing like a sparkly, ribbon festooned packaged hidden somewhere in your home or business but what lies within can be an experience rather than a physical item. Learn how to: swim, do ballet, kick someone's #$*& with martial arts (if need be), climb a mountain, paint with watercolor or learn a new language. If you want to help rural villagers throughout the world you can purchase a part or whole of an animal through Heifer International. There are ample opportunities to donate to food banks, toy drives, or volunteer with hundreds of different organizations.
Give a Second Life (by Recycling and Composting): Most of the cards, paper, plastic and other byproducts of holiday giving can be recycled or composted. See http://earth911.com for a listing or the Department of Ecology's recycling page or county specific links. Of particular note is electronics which are full of toxic materials and are often illegally shipped overseas and handled by children and older villagers. Lucky for us, Washington is in its third year of E-Cycle Washington. Check out the site to see how to recycle or donate everything from cell phones to computers.
Food A Go-Go: Ok, we all gorge ourselves until silly this time of year but there are still ways businesses can donate food. Food donors are protected from liability if they use due care and this is also an unprecedented time of need in Washington's communities. For consumers, food that cannot be donated can often be commercially composted depending on where you live and you can always do backyard composting with select materials. Businesses can compost commercially or a local farmer may take your goodies. A great tool to find a compost facility is here.
Other Nifty Tid Bits: There are a number of web sites that offer ways to make creative gift wrap, donate used holiday cards or give back by giving certain gifts. Look here and frolic there. Wishing the world a more peaceful, nurturing and loving 2012.